With the global pandemic and lockdown changing the way that a lot of people work, it has also necessitated a change in the way we think about computing hardware, especially outside of the desktop PC setup.
As such, notebooks in particular are needing to fulfil a different list of requirements than they did previously, so how does an offering like the Asus ExpertBook B9 stack up?
We recently spent a couple of weeks with the business and productivity-focused notebook from Asus to find out if it is indeed worthwhile.
If you have seen any promotional material or advertising for the ExpertBook B9, you know that it is being billed as an ultralight ultrabook, specifically holding the moniker of world’s lightest 14″ business notebook.
To that end it tips the scale at 880g and features a 14.9mm thick body. We’ve encountered thin and light notebooks in the past, but the ExpertBook is the first time we were taken aback at how light it was when in-hand.
In fact, we wondered if there were some components missing from the device before booting it up. Thankfully all was in order when we did.
As such, it feels like you’re carrying around a tablet instead of a notebook, and it’s svelte proportions definitely makes it feel like a premium piece of hardware.
One thing we do need to note, however, is that the ExpertBook’s body is very plastic heavy.
The grade of plastic feels tough and hardwearing, so there is no real flimsiness to worry about, but it is worth mentioning that if you’re on the look out for an aluminium chassis sporting ultrabook, this ain’t the one.
The ExpertBook B9 comes in one colour option – which Asus calls Star Black – but we prefer to lump into the navy blue category.
Either way, the colour is a nice change up from the swathe of silver and black colour options saturating the business ultrabook market, and along with the HP Elite Dragonfly we recently reviewed, may be sparking a blue trend in the industry.
Looking at some of the other design elements, the top lid of the notebook features a cleaver hinge design that raises the keyboard and trackpad position to a more comfortable angle when opened up.
There’s also a numberpad built into the trackpad, which can be toggled on and off for use and illuminates when you are using it. It is by no means the reason to buy the ExpertBook B9, but does help to differentiate it from the other ultrabooks out there.
What will prove a selling factor is the battery life though. Asus is claiming up to 24 hours from the ExpertBook B9. We did not get close to those figures, but did get a more than satisfactory experience on the battery side of things from the ultrabook.
Here, we managed on average 11 hours from a fully charged battery before a trip to the charging port was needed, which takes care of the nine to five needs, and then some.
There’s also a fast charging function that can deliver up to 60 percent battery capacity from 39 minutes of charging. It works as advertised, and could prove useful when you’re in a bind while travelling, but during lockdown days, it is a feature to keep in your back pocket for now.
In fact, we’re quite wary of using fast charging too much, as it remains to be seen how frequent use impacts the longevity of the battery itself. This isn’t an ExpertBook issue, but rather one we have with notebooks in general.
Now that we’ve touched on the impressive battery life, let’s look at performance. Our review model features a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 (10510U) processor, which is paired with 16GB LPDDR3 RAM in order to do the heavy lifting on this device.
In terms of benchmarking, the numbers being yielded are solid, with V-Ray scores ranging between 3 626 and 3 300. The results from Cinebench R20 are similarly solid, ranging between 1 051 and 941 during testing.
It should be noted though, that when the temperature picks up on the device due to heavy workloads, the scores fell, but longer periods in between benchmarking brought them closer to the scores recorded at the beginning of the session.
The important aspect to take away from this is that the ExpertBook B9 is more than capable to handle intensive multitasking when asked, just don’t expect it to be a portable workhouse, as this is not what it is designed for.
Moving onto some of the other areas of our experience with the device, the 14″ FullHD (1920×1080) display is crisp and bright, but can look a tad dull at its middle or lower settings. You’ll likely want to bump up the brightness then, which isn’t a concern given what the battery onboard can handle.
As for the typing experience, it soo is solid, but much like the trend among ultrabooks of late, the keys don’t have any satisfying snap to them. As such, the experience can feel a little “mushy” at times, but this is more of a personal preference as far as notebook typing goes.
Lastly, Asus has ensured that ExpertBook is well appointed when it comes to port options. Here two Thunderbolt 3-certified USB Type C ports are present, as is a USB 3.1 Type A, an HDMI, RJ45 LAN via micro HDMI and audio combo jack, so you shouldn’t be needing a dongle for this one.
The Asus ExpertBook B9 is an impressive ultrabook. Unbelievably light, supremely thin, powerful enough to perform as needed and armed with fantastic battery life. There isn’t much else you’ll be needed from a Windows 10 PRO device.
All of that will cost you though, with the B9 retailing locally for roughly R31 550 (depending on the outlet).
If you don’t mind the heavy plastic design though, you’ll be hard pressed to find better options on the ultrabook market, and when things return to normal, you’ll have a highly portable notebook that keep going as long as you do.